Youth was not wasted on swimmers in the Cold Half 15-kilometre ocean swim off the south of Hong Kong Island yesterday. Despite challenging open-water conditions and the gruelling distance, it was young guns, not seasoned veterans, who dominated the podiums.
Local Olympic hopefuls Fiona Chan On-yi, 17, and Singha Chau, 13, led from the start and powered to the finish, winning the relay in three hours, 28 minutes and 11 seconds.
They secured the win over last year's relay winner, Olympic swimmer Hannah Wilson, and her partner Kevin Chow. Both 26, the latter duo finished second in 3:38:56.
Just minutes later, and finishing as the first all-female team, were 13-year-old swimming prodigies Jemima Ridley and Aneeka Styles in 3:41:57.
In the solo race, 26-year-old Alexandre Beaulne was the only swimmer to crack four hours, finishing in 3:53:48.
"My goal was to swim under four hours today and I did it," said an exuberant Beaulne, who only took up distance swimming a year ago after moving from his native Canada to Hong Kong. "Back home I was a swimmer, but only over 200 metres."
"Hong Kong has such a lovely open-water swimming community and big swims, I decided to give it a go."
It was a "crazy day", said event organiser Doug Woodring, with wind chill bringing the temperature below 10 degrees. High winds and choppy conditions were an added challenge for the 50 swimmers who took part.
"It was pretty rough out there, but pretty much everyone did it - only two [non-wet-suited] swimmers had to pull out from the cold."
Richard Letcher was second in the solo swim in 4:12:36, followed by global-channel swimmer Ned Denison in 4:18:33 - the only man in the top three without a wetsuit.
In the Cold Standard, an event that combines the Cold Half with today's Standard Chartered Marathon today, Henry Wright led among the five swimmers who are taking part.